NHK Taiga Drama Shinsengumi! is written by Mitani Koki and produced by Yoshikawa Koji. Additional historical information is provided by the sole English book on the late Bakumatsu period police force, Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps by Romulus Hillsborough. Moeyo Ken written by Shiba Ryotaro, 1966 film of the same name (Blazing Sword to Western audiences) directed by Ichimura Hirokazu, screenplay by Hasebe Toshiro, Kato Tai, Morisaki Azuma. Shinsengumi! main theme written by John Ken Nuzzo. All original characters for this fanfic belong to emmafrostwhitequeen1.
She Wolf of Mibu
Chapter I: The Guests
Port of Yokohama, Late Spring 1864
The HMS Adams reached its port of call sometime after tea but certain guests were asked by the magistrate to remain at the harbor. By the time Shogunate representatives reached them, it was dark and only a grey haired samurai in a black kataginu on horseback with his attendant greeted them.
“Koban wa,” he dropped a bow, “and many apologies. I’m afraid the accomodations weren’t ready as scheduled- such is beauracracy. I am Sakuma Shouzan, the Bakufu’s main advocate on foreign trade.” He introduced himself with a jaunty smile, and despite the time he didn’t appear the least bit tired.
“Apologies aren’t necessary, I’m quite accustomed to the quirks of government.” Sakuma assessed the tall, blonde Englishman behind his grin. "I’m Sir St. John Brantley, account manager at Barclay’s, you may call me Shin. I’m most honored to meet you Sakuma-sama."
“Your Japanese isn’t bad, I take it you learned in China?”
“An old old master put me through my paces,” St. John downplayed himself. “But my daughter is far better.” A young woman came forward and pulled back the hood on her dark blue mantle. Piles of honey-blonde curls were highlighted by the lantern in the now quivering attendant’s hand.
“I’m very pleased to meet you, Sakuma-sensei.” She bowed graciously. “I’m Elizabeth Brantley, and you may call me Reina.”
Sakuma burst out laughing and tapped St. John’s shoulder with his fan.
“Did you hear that, Hannya?” He called over his shoulder to his attendant.
“Eh?” Hannya groaned drowsily from under his sugegasa.
“Enthusiasm! I like it so far. Let’s not dawdle, we’ve got quite a ride. Get them their wagon.”
“Where exactly are we staying, Sakuma-sensei?” Reina asked.
“You can imagine how Edo’s a right mess what with all the special foreign guests of Our Lord, and of course, our nobility just pouring in. So we’ve had to forward our guests to the outlying villages. You and your father have been set up in Tama. Their biggest cash crop is silk, and aside from a few frogs, nothing much happens there.”
Hannya brought round the wagon then helped his master to mount. Shin and his daughter got into the driver’s seat and Hannya jumped into the cart and made himself comfortable for a nice sleep.
“I was told by the Shogunate that when my business concludes in Edo that we were to wait for our escorts to bring us to Kyoto.” Shin said. “Is traveling unsafe for foreigners?”
“Banditry is a problem currently,” Sakuma explained. “Ronin have become a serious threat to everyone frankly, and to have the reputation of Our Lord soiled by common highwaymen isn’t only an outrage, it’s an insult.”
“Ronin are masterless samurai, aren’t they sensei?” Reina asked.
“You needn’t come from the samurai class to be ronin, my dear.” Sakuma explained.
“But I thought swordplay was limited to the warrior class.”
“The threat of invasion has always been first and foremost on our minds.” Sakuma said. “If our peasants and merchants can get mobilized to protect the Shogun, there’s no argument. The flourish of martial arts in Tama, for example, were for two reasons, during the Kamakura period many of the soldiers came from the region. The second was more recent what with the Black Ships and our recession doing its damage, the Shogunate is hard-pressed to come up with the funds to pay the magistrate to properly police. So the village heads got together and opened up their own dojos having every and any swordmaster come to teach. But if one wants to be a samurai, it’s just not kowing how to use your blade- any fool can swing a sword- history, philosophy, even poetry, our warriors must be true renaissance men!”
“Are you considered a scholar, then?”
Sakuma bobbed his head proudly. “After long study I became quite in favor of an open doors policy. Eastern morality, western technology, I believe firmly that these things can join hands.” He thrust out his hand to Reina and she shook it. “We Japanese needn’t give up anything to accomplish great things in this world. Of course, not everyone agrees with this, but small-mindedness never gets anyone anywhere. And worse yet, it may even have dire consequences.”
“Are those your fears for your country, Sakuma-sama?” Shin asked.
“Ah,” Sakuma said gravely. “But our leaders who know this are distracted by status and past glory. Or are just plain corrupt.” He sighed and went on, “my fear is that the philosophy will be twisted and our enemies may use it to wreak havoc in the future. Take advice young lady, life is a learning process, you must never stop.”
“Then I’ll be learning a lot in Tama.” Reina said.
The conversation got lighter as the party trundled down the road out of town. Heading in the same direction were two young men strolling leisurely ensuring that they kept their distance behind the guests.
“Heisuke, I really like this job.”
Itoshiki tomo wa izukoni
Kono mi wa tsuyu to kietemo
Wasure wa senu atsuki omoi
Makoto no na ni tsunoishi
Tooi hi o ano hata ni takushita
* * *
Reina rolled on her back, the temple with was lit with sunrise. She flew off her heap of Indian pillows and ran onto the fifth storey balcony of the pagoda. Japan flew its best springtime colors, the mikos on the courtyard swept, and people milled about.
“It’s exactly as I imagined it.” She folded her arms on the fence and rested her chin. The kannushi, Ryuugen, called them to breakfast in the main hall of the Takahatasan Temple an hour later.
“So what’s on the itinerary, Dad?”
“The Hino village leader Sato wants to see us before I go back to Edo.”
“What do you know about these escorts from Kyoto?”
“Sakuma-sama tells me they’re a local Kyoto militia, but not known up here in Edo.”
“I thought the Aizu domain army kept order in the capital.”
“In theory, my dear. But the truth is politics has been gumming up the works for years. If the magistrate doesn’t have the budget or manpower, they turn to the army. The army says let’s say, burglary, is a petty matter for them and nothing gets done. The merchants association bands together and complains to the magistrate and refuses to pay their taxes if they’re forced to hire personal security for their businesses.”
“And there goes the chain reaction of chaos.”
“But it isn’t as simple as all that,” A servant said filling their miso bowls. “Originally the militia was created to protect Our Lord during his stay in the capital. The imperial court and the Shogunate have been in conflict for some time, but it reached its apex when the Black Ships arrived ten years ago. The emperor is kept ignorant of the realities of warfare, but when he accuses Our Lord of weakness the people take it very seriously. On the other hand, the other use of the militia was to aide in your expulsion. There are many who support the Lord and don’t want you.”
“Do they still not want us?” Shin asked.
“That depends on who you ask. Our Lord thought prudently and ignored the expulsion deadline.” The servant got to his feet. “If we remain an island unto ourselves, we will no longer have this island.”
“Does this militia have a name?” Reina said.
“Shinsengumi. It means ‘new age builders’.”
* * *
In the wagon they set out for Hino, in perfect rows farmers spread seed on Sato fields, and at the end of the road was the gate of the Sato family’s main house, the wooden entrance opened the for the wagon, and the Brantleys disembarked meeting the chief servants.
“I am Ryota.” The man said.
“And I’m Mao.” Said the woman. They bowed. “The lord and lady are expecting you.” Reina looked this way and that as she and her father were led up the path of the sprawling estate.
“It’s gorgeous.” She whispered to her father.
“And their family houses are a great deal older than our nobility.” Following Mao and Ryota into the reception room, Shin and Reina greeted Sato Higokoro and his wife Nobu.
“Welcome to Tama!” Higokoro announced giving the Brantleys permission to rise from their bows. “We are honored to receive special guests of the Shogun.” He directed them to places on the tatami.
“We are honored to be guests of Tama.” Shin said.
“This is a but a minor token to show our gratitude.” Reina handed Nobu a brown box tied with a white lace ribbon.
“Thank you very much.” She gave it to Mao and Ryota served the tea.
“I must admit we were very surprised that our town would be hosting foreigners,” Higokoro said, “but considering Brantley-sama brought his family, it did put us at ease.”
“I certainly hope we’re not too scary.” Reina quipped, everyone laughed having chipped the ice then refreshed themselves. Nobu had a heart-shaped elegant face indicative of her beauty in her younger years, and Higokoro was a disarming-looking fellow with a chonmage.
“You’re very pretty,” Nobu said to Reina startling her. “I can’t wait to meet your mother. When will she be along?” Reina looked to her father nervously, then twisted her hands into her denim blue skirt.
“My wife and older son died in a tuberculosis epidemic in China two years ago.” Shin told them.
“We are very sorry,” Higokoro said apologetically. “Consumption is no stranger here.”
“Both of my parents died of it.” Nobu said gently to Reina.
“It hasn’t been easy, but Reina and I believe in looking forward. My wife was of this mindset too, and coming to Japan was definitely a way for us to look forward.”
“Well then,” Higokoro slapped his knees, “let’s do our best and keep our heads up! How long will you be staying, believe it or not there’s much to do in Tama.”
“Three weeks at most, but I’ll be returning to Edo tomorrow.” Shin said. “It’s Reina who’ll need the guided tour.” Reina smiled at her hosts hoping Nobu had all the juicy gossip.
“Eh? You’re leaving a young girl cooped up in a temple- ALONE?” Nobu gasped.
“I hope not, Nobu-sama!” Reina laughed. “I’m quite used to being on my own, but as this is my first time in Japan, I hope to make friends and to see some of the truly beautiful places.”
Nobu and her husband looked at each other. “Then we have just the companions for you.” Higokoro said.
Circling round to the rear of the house was a semi-open structure where a group of men were exercising. Reina flinched hearing their animal-like shrieks, Shin excitedly jogged ahead of Higokoro.
“Don’t worry,” Nobu comforted her. “It sounds more threatening than it is.” In the middle of a circle of men were two combatants in full bogu exchanging blows with shinai. The man with the red stringed men advanced upon his competitor swiping at his lower extremities. The other man dodged but did little better trying to strike the other’s head. They danced around and their bamboo clashed and clacked, neither side giving up the fight. Red string gathered himself and waited, Reina sucked in a ball of air and wondered if biding his time was wise. His opponent went for a downward strike when red string made a flicking gesture with his wrist, knocking the shinai out of the way and smacking his saki-gawa into the other man’s face mask.
“Match!” A man with a topknot sitting seiza shouted throwing up his arm in red string’s direction. Topknot reminded Reina of a Buddha, he had a genteel face with hawkish eyes and hands resting perfectly still on his thighs. The combatants bowed to one another and stood at their sitting spots. “Head instructor Okita.” Topknot turned beside him to a scrappy-looking schoolboy with a snaggletooth, shaved pate and ponytail.
“While you did win the match Hijikata-sensei,” Okita said to red string, “you still have a nasty little habit of keeping your sword tip pointed too far to the right. Things like that can be costly in the future.”
Hijikata’s shoulders slumped at Okita’s bright criticism. “Thank you for the reminder.” Reina took half a step back shielding herself behind a beam so as not look as if she were staring, but it was hard to make out Hijikata’s face from behind that grille. Higokoro wagged his fingers at topknot getting his attention.
“That’s all for today,” topknot said to the class. “Thank you, and dismissed.” They bowed and filed out, schoolboy noticed Shin and Reina and jumped to one of the students who stayed back nudging him, another young man with a chonmage, wide eyes and an innocent face. They beamed at them but stayed put obviously letting topknot make his greeting first.
“Kondo-waka sensei, our foreign guests just arrived.”
“So it seems Sato-sama.” Kondo bowed formally to Shin. “Good afternoon, I’m Kondo Isami, fourth master of the Tennen Rishin Ryu of the Shieikan dojo. I’m very pleased to meet you Brantley-sama.”
“I’m very impressed with you, waka sensei.” Shin said. “I was in the army and studied fencing. But it was nothing like that.”
“Arigato gozaimasu.” Reina caught his eye and he beckoned to her. “Odyo-sama.”
Reina looked at Nobu who encouraged her to enter the dojo, she stepped out of her white slippers and her father helped her up the stairs.
“My daughter Reina.”
She bowed. “Kondo-waka sensei.”
“Reina-chan’s father will be going back to Edo for The Lord’s business tomorrow,” said Nobu putting her hands on Reina’s shoulders, “so we thought Soji and Heisuke would be perfect for keeping an eye on her.” She pointed to the fish-mouthed pair speechless at the tall, blonde, bluer-than-blue-eyed first foreign woman they’d ever seen.
“Soji! Heisuke!” Kondo whipped them back into reality. They bounded up to Reina and bowed clumsily.
“Shieikan, head instructor, Okita Soji desu!”
“But you’re so young!” Reina said.
“The youngest in the Shieikan’s history- a-and I’m Todo Heisuke, visiting student!” Heisuke stuttered.
“He’s mokuroku ranked in the Hokushin Itto Ryu, but a fast learner for Tennen Rishin!” Soji said.
“Eh?” Heisuke flushed at Reina’s expression.
“Well it seems like everyone’s getting along here,” Kondo said. He looked behind and frowned. “Oi, Toshi, quit being so anti-social.” Reina tried to distract herself from staring at Hijikata’s very nice arms. Hijikata removed his mask slower than usual. Lacquer black ponytail with a flip at the end, bangs that stuck out at either side of his forehead like spider legs, bedroom brown eyes, and apple cheeks. His lips were smallish but soft looking.
“Shieikan, instructor, Hijikata Toshizo.” He bowed to Reina. Her pink-red lips streched into a nervous smile, she folded her arms behind her back and pinched the inside of her elbow so that her knees didn’t disappear. Kondo grinned tightly to no one’s notice.
“Toshizo,” Nobu said to her younger brother who wouldn’t break eye contact with Reina, “dinner will be served soon. You might want to get ready now.”
“Hai.” Hijikata excused himself and Kondo looked to his two younger charges.
“Soji, Heisuke, when we get back meet me after dinner. I must speak with you.”
“When Brantley-sama returns, the Shieikan will have an official welcome for you.”
“What’ll it be?” Reina asked Kondo.
“A field match at Rokusho Shrine. Then you’ll see the true capabilities of Tennen Rishin.”
“Looking forward to it Kondo-waka sensei.” Shin said.
“Come by the Shieikan tomorrow,” Soji invited Reina. “You’ll meet everybody, and then we’ll take you around.”
“We know all the best places!” Heisuke said.
“It’s a promise then.” And they pinky swore on it.
* * *
Nobu’s older brother Tamejiro returned just in time for supper- as he had the busiest social life- and for a blind man, not only was he incredibly independent to move about without a cane, he was a talent with a shamisen. Tamejiro was a robust man with a short ponytail dressed in a tasteful dark green kimono.
“The shamisen shop’s buzzing about you two,” Tamejiro said, “had we known you were staying at our family temple we should have visited you as Shin-sama is leaving for Edo tomorrow.”
“Is Takahata-san your family temple?” Reina asked.
“Ah.” Hijikata made his entrance fresh from the furo. He took his seat beside Tamejiro, in front of Reina. “And we should pay our respects regardless. As soon as possible.” Gone was the bad boy at the dojo, and a country squire took his place. Hijikata wore a classy dark charcoal colored kimono with light grey square patterns and a fan tucked in his brown obi. His hair was slicked back and still drying, Reina preferred his fringe. Ryota had the trays laid out and Mao manned the rice bucket, tea was made for Reina as someone needed to be sober enough to drive the wagon.
“What exactly is Shin-sama’s business with Our Lord?” Hijikata asked.
“In the international press our bank’s reputation suffered somewhat.” Shin didn’t mince words. “Arbitrage is nothing new, and since I have extensive experience in the Orient, I was called in to sweep up.”
“Corruption is the order of the day here,” Sato said putting a chunk of snapper into his mouth. “Some believe if nothing changes, the Shogunate will fall.”
“But the Shogunate did allow the foreigners in. I’m grateful to the government.” Reina said.
“Yet the British are one of the belligerents fighting down in Shimonoseki as we speak.” Hijikata topped off her cup.
“Aren’t the Choshu clan giving problems to the Shogunate?” Reina refilled his sakazuki.
He smiled. “So you are paying attention.” His smile dropped and the piercing look he was giving her in the dojo returned.
“The Choshu are going too far,” Nobu said. “I know they’ve been at odds with the court for over a century, but their defiance will be the death of them.”
“Bloodshed in the capital can’t last forever. What would they gain by killing everybody?” Tamejiro asked.
After the trays were taken more tea was brewed and sake warmed, and they were brought out with the chocolates Reina gave Nobu. She and Tamejiro especially enjoyed them. Reina left the latrine and the earlier conversation rolled around like marbles in her skull. How could they be so dead casual about about all the chaos breaking around them? From down the hall she could hear the conclusion of Sato’s song, and her father’s laughter and applause. Reina stopped in front of a room with an open shoji and through the window she spotted a spiderweb woven in a tree branch. A cricket was caught and the arachnid was crawling down towards its dinner.
“I always say to Kat-chan, don’t brood alone.” Reina couldn’t spin fast enough, Hijikata stood there grinning.
“Hijikata-san, you surprised me.” She said a bit winded.
“I’m sorry.” He wasn’t sorry one bit, but she said nothing. “Would you like to come in, it’s my room after all.” Reina didn’t want to get into a lesson regarding European sensitivities and come off rude, so she attempted the easy way out.
“Don’t you think we should get back, it doesn’t look well for us to vanish.”
“As much as I enjoy Nii-chan’s playing, Aniue’s singing isn’t what you call easy on the ears.” He gestured for her to precede him. “Please.” No apparently wasn’t an answer for Hijikata and she walked in.
“Shitsureishimasu.” She bowed to him, Hijikata closed the shoji. She looked around, like most Japanese rooms furnishings were spartan, but the house was well kept and the room spotless. A wall scroll with a night scene and Chinese writing, a low laquer table with paper and ink stone aside a short stack of books, and a tall brown chest of drawers with a triangular shaped piece of blue and white cloth on its top. Reina stopped short when she saw Hijikata’s daisho on its stand. Seeing men walk about with swords was nothing new, but Hijikata’s sageo was red. Black was the common color, occasionally she saw blue and purple, but never red. He was determined to prove that he can stand out in a crowd.
Hijikata observed Reina from behind quietly allowing her to make the first move. As was his habit he scrolled his eyes up a person’s body from heel to head judging whether or not they were worth his spent breath. Women of course were another story, but as this was his first foreign woman, he wanted to play the game carefully. Her hair covered the whole of her back, so he was a little disappointed that he couldn’t see her nape. But he liked the red ribbon that was tied at the end. Her breasts were large, and her white blouse was tucked in tight and low cut making her waist look smaller. The flared skirt obscured her hip shape, but the sway indicated perfect roundness. She was nearly his height, and he knew her slippers were flat- foreign women were said to always wear heels- so she might have an issue with that. She was a big girl who could handle anything he’d throw at her.
According to Yamazaki’s profile Reina was 22, and completed her studies in England before returning to the Shanghai International Settlement. She was born in London but she and her older brother Christopher were raised in India, Africa, and Australia before the family’s last stop in China. Her brother joined the Royal Navy and was on leave when the epidemic struck, killing both him and the mother.
“Hijikata-san, may I ask you something?”
“You may ask me anything.”
She turned around. “Who is Kat-chan?”
“That’s my nickname for Kondo-waka sensei.” Was that relief? Did she think that was a woman? How sweet. He had 12 between Osaka and Kyoto, with a few trifles here in Edo, but they were paid for. With his career just beginning to take off he preferred the geishas. He got a kick out of the competition and they were handy spies.
“How long have you known Kondo-waka sensei?”
“Since I was 17.”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty.” He saw the whites of her eyes very clearly in the low light. “I’m going to take that as a compliment.”
“Take whatever you want.” She mumbled stunned.
I intend to. “Did you enjoy today?” Hijikata sat and Reina followed after he made himself comfortable.
“Yes, although I was very nervous about entering your dojo. I’m afraid I don’t know the etiquette.”
“You did fine. Oh yes, thank you for the chocolates,” Hijikata tried out this newest word and hoped it sounded right.
“It’s not as sweet as konpeito, but I chose that particular type for that reason.”
“Would you like to try some wagashi?”
“Ah!” Hijikata went to his drawers and pulled out a plate with something wrapped in a furoshiki.
“Normally I live at the Shieikan so I don’t have to do this, but whenever I get sweets and I’m staying here my cousin Yukina-chan has some sort of sixth sense and turns up.”
“Hoshino Yukina-san? You mean one of the mikos at the shrine is your relative?”
He nodded. “It’s tradition to have one daughter or another serve the shrine.” Hijikata set the plate on the tatami and untied the cloth. “These sweets came on the scene just a couple years ago, they’re called amananatto. Azuki beans lightly fried in syrup.”
The beans were amber colored and jelly-like with a thick dusting of sugar. They crushed easily on Reina’s tongue, and the mixed sweeteners of the sugar and bean drenched her palette. “They are delicious!”
“They’re best with green tea. The original shop they’re from is in Edo, so make sure your father pays you back when he returns with some of these.” Hijikata said.
“I will, but he’ll blame you for putting the idea in my head.” Reina said.
“I’ll take the responsibility.” They laughed. Reina made the largest beans on the top vanish, Hijikata took his from the sides. “You must really be looking forward to your walking tour with Souji and Heisuke.”
“Yes,” she admitted. “They look like fun.”
“I like them a lot too, but Soji’s a handful so watch out.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.” Reina said.
“I will also make myself at your disposal should you need anything.” Her breath caught as Hijikata expected.
“Why not?” He was enjoying himself.
“Because… Hijikata-san seems the type to be needed eleswhere.” She went to eat another bean to hide her nerves when she saw the first wave. It looked like heat vapor, but the temperature felt normal. Reina looked at the spiderweb again. The cricket was half eaten. “Hijikata-san, do you know what sonno joi is?”
“That’s chatter for chatterboxes I can’t stand.”
“Then you are a martial man.”
“I am,” he confirmed.
“Do people want us dead here?”
“Do you want me dead, Hijikata-san?”
“No. I just want you.” Footsteps in the hall were quick and Reina heard her father’s voice mixed with several others.
“Is going to his room,” The voices faded and Hijikata pressed her down by the shoulders. “If he leaves later in the day tomorrow, Our Lord will know no better. This is Tama after all.” Reina heaved a shuddering breath of surrender. “And now I will take care of you.” Her eyes screwed up to his and he put her under a trance laying her on the floor softly. First kisses were supposed to be shocks to the system as Reina heard, but when Hijikata licked her mouth open she just felt like cement had poured out of her brain.
“Your breasts are beautiful.” Hijikata licked and plucked her pink nipples with his teeth. He hiked up her skirt and tossed aside her little bloomers. Reina did like the Arabs and sugared her hair, there was a flaxen strip on her pubis, he spanked her mons, creating a lot of moisture. Hijikata twisted his tongue into her pussy and anus loosening them, her hymen was in perfect shape so he had to make it quick.
Reina’s vision was cloudy but when Hijikata stripped she reddened when she saw how kenjutsu gave him a fantastic body. Hijikata sighed relishing the skin-on-skin contact, Reina had gorgeous muscle tone and a shapely ass that stuck out in a firm bump. They rolled around on their clothes, Reina’s hair was a silky mess and goosebumps raised on Hijikata’s thighs as it slid over them while she kissed and pawed his chest. She had a thing for pectorals. Hijikata wiped the hair off the back of her neck and bit. She made a warbling noise and he called the foreplay.
Hijikata sat back on his haunches and dragged her hips on his lap. Deflowering a foreign girl was an honor, he wet his lips and grabbed his pre-come soaked cock getting himself into position…
He snapped his head to the window that Inoue Genzaburo was under. “Damn you Gen-san and your punctuality!” Hijikata hissed. He went soft and got momentarily depressed, then went to his closet and dressed. The god of lust would have lost out to the god of sleep regardless, Reina looked charming curled up with the tip of her thumb wedged in her teeth. He kissed her neck and draped his discarded kimono over her. “Stay warm for me.” Hijikata snuffed out the candle, took his swords, stuck her hair ribbon in his sleeve, and left quietly joining Gen-san outside.
TO BE CONTINUED